California Divorce Hearings | Step By Step Guide to Hearings (2023)

Learn about filing, serving and the hearing on a request for order

Here is a checklist guide to divorce hearings in California

The following are a list of court appearances that are typical in divorce cases.

1. Status or case resolution conference

The court may set a status or case resolution conference to obtain an update from the lawyers or self-represented parties about the case's status. Typically, nothing significant happens at these status conferences. The court simply wants to know where the case has been and where the case is going.

2. Request for order hearing

The court sets a request for order hearing when either spouse through his or her lawyer files a request for order.

A request for order is exactly what it sounds like. It is a series of paperwork including certain forms and declarations where a spouse requests the court to make certain orders.

A request for order typically seeks temporary orders while the divorce is pending. These temporary orders include but are not limited to child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, attorney's fees, temporary exclusive use or possession of property or other temporary property control related orders.

What you must know about request for order hearings

  • A request for order hearing is sometimes a full evidentiary hearing. That means both spouses and any witnesses brought to the hearing may testify in open court.
  • Once the testimony and the hearing concludes, the court makes a ruling.
  • It is common for the court to not only suggest but to insist the spouses attempt resolution of the issues on the date of the hearing.
  • If the hearing starts but does not finish, the court may continue the hearing to a new date. If the court has a particularly busy calendar, the court may also continue the hearing. Sometimes, the spouses, through their lawyers, continue the hearing. This is common when the settlement negotiations are ongoing and the spouses are reasonably working toward resolution.

3. Emergency hearings

An emergency hearing (also called an "ex parte" hearing) should only result when there is a true emergency. A true emergency includes situations where the children are in imminent threat of physical harm or abduction or property is in imminent danger of loss or destruction. Another typical emergency hearing is a domestic violence restraining order hearing where one spouse perpetrated domestic violence against the other spouse and the victim spouse needs immediate protection.

4. Mediation

A court ordered mediation occurs in child custody cases after either spouse files a request for order and asks the court for child custody and visitation orders. Before the request for order hearing, the court orders the spouses to attend mediation at the courthouse and attempt resolution of the child custody and visitation issues.

California law does not permit lawyers to attend these mediations

The spouses typically attend alone although in cases of domestic violence, a victim spouse may bring another with him or her. In Orange County and Los Angeles County, if the spouses are unable to resolve the child custody and visitation issues, they simply proceed to hearing and the mediator does not make any report to the Court.

In Riverside County, the mediator may make recommendations to the Court after the mediator meets with the spouses.

In any County, a mediator may report to the court if the mediator learns of reasonably suspected child abuse. If the spouses reach a partial or complete agreement on child custody and visitation, the mediator will typically write the terms and present it to the spouses for signature at mediation.

5. Review hearings

Sometimes, a court will make orders and then set a review hearing to review the orders and determine how the situation progresses between the spouses. This is most common in child custody and visitation cases where an initial order limits a parent's time but the court or one or both spouses expect that time to increase.

6. Trial setting conference

A trial setting conference is a hearing where the court expects each spouse's lawyer to explain the case's status, what issues have resolved or may soon resolve and whether the case is ready for trial. A court may set the case for a trial at that time or the court may set a mandatory settlement conference before the trial date.

Sometimes, the court sets a mandatory settlement conference instead of a trial and then if the case does not settle at the mandatory settlement conference, the court will then set the case for trial. Other times, the court may set a trial and a mandatory settlement conference before the trial.

Not every court handles trial setting conference is the exact same way. Some courts have special filing requirements before a trial setting conference.

7. Trial readiness conference

Some counties set a trial readiness conference before they set the case for trial. Others may set this conference after they set the case for trial but before the trial itself. A trial readiness conference is similar to a trial setting conference. Some courts set prefiling and service deadlines before the trial readiness conference.

8. Mandatory settlement conference

A mandatory settlement conference is not a court hearing in the true sense because a judge does not make any decisions on that date. A mandatory settlement conference is each spouse's opportunity to appear with his or her lawyer and attempt to resolve some or all of the issues. The court holds mandatory settlement conferences at the courthouse.

It is common for the lawyers to report to the courtroom department at the beginning of the morning and then be excused to attempt resolution. If a mandatory settlement conference results in a resolution, one or both lawyers may draft the settlement terms and in some cases, the spouses and the lawyers may sign the settlement terms at the mandatory settlement conference.

This page does not discuss trials. We wrote a comprehensive guide on California divorce trials, to which we link below.

Learn more about California divorce hearings

There is more to learn about the difference types of California divorce hearings. The guides we link below include those on:

  • Requests for order
  • California divorce trials
  • Post judgment modification hearings
  • Contempt hearings

Keep reading, keep learning and use that knowledge in your search for a family law attorney.

"Walking into a court hearing of any type without a high skilled family law litigator is a dangerous game you do not want to play. If your case matters, choose from the elite family law attorneys."

- B. Robert Farzad

Choosing a good family law attorney is one of the most important decisions you can make. I was referred to Farzad & Ochoa Law Firm by a family member. I was fortunate to be assigned to Peter. He is passionate in what he does. He is kind but firm, tough when need be. His attention to detail was impressive compared to other lawyers I have had in the past. I was in awe of his performance in...

- SB

Farzad & Ochoa were very professional and knowledgeable with my case. I wish I've found them sooner, that would have save me a lot of time. Yvette worked on my case and in few weeks, she was up to speed and had a winning strategy. The opposing counsel was very aggressive but Yvette was very knowledgeable, confident and objective. I strongly recommend her and her firm.

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I want thank my Attorney Yvette Ochoa for representing me during one of the most difficult and frustrating times for my family. She supported me the entire time. She always remained patient and professional. She always made me feel like my case was priority! Because of Yvette and the rest of the team I was able to gain joint physical and legal custody of my five year old son ! I highly...

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"Life can be ever changing in a split second. I found myself in need of a divorce attorney quickly. Through a recommendation I found Robert and his team. Through their professionalism, compassion and just pure kindness, they made this journey for me and my son bearable. I will forever be grateful to them."

- LS

"Before I met Robert, I had never spent more than six hours per week with my eight month old son. I tried to fight for more time but was never able to succeed. I felt very lost and scared about what might happen because I had absolutely no understanding of the family court system. My first attorney would barely take my calls or inform me of what was going on.I contacted Robert through his...

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- SM

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- PN

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- DM

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"Recently, I was encountered with two family law cases in superior court. The first time I decided to use a paralegal in order to save money. I quickly learned that this decision was the wrong decision. It only extended my court case, caused problems I was not familiar with and ended costing me more money. The second time Matt and Robert represented me. They are skilled, they know the law and...

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"I was represented by Robert Farzad and Matt Sundly in my Domestic Violence / Divorce case. It was a difficult time for me. They were professional and courteous, knowing how emotionally difficult this was for me. Their staff took time to inform me of details on the case, and in the end I was satisfied with the results all due to their efforts. I would say, if you must get a divorce, then...

- SB

"Attorney Matthew Sundly, has represented my interests in an ongoing and difficult custody situation for the last 4 years. There is no one else I would want to represent me. The professionalism, communication and interest in my case are second to none. Without Mr. Sundly’s commitment and personal attention to the details of my case, I fear what the outcome might have been. Knowing Mr. Sundly...

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- AG

"Matthew Sundly represented me in my child custody case. My son was living in a very dangerous and unhealthy environment with his mother. Because of Matthew’s skills in the courtroom and his wonderful rapport with judges and opposing counsel alike, I was able to gain full custody of my son and a very bad situation was completely turned around. Throughout my entire case, Matthew Sundly was...

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"It was as bad as it could get: an angry, vindictive ex-spouse who was intent upon inflicting as much damage personally and financially as possible with lies and distortions. I faced the loss of my career, my reputation, and financial ruin. The first law firm I contracted suggested I just “give in to my ex’s outlandish demands and walk away.” This was not an option. Robert and Matt...

- Jeff

"I was once at a point in my life were I was scared and confused. I felt lost and alone. No one ever enters into marriage with the anticipation of pending divorce. My family is a precious part of my life that I never wanted to lose. The odds were not looking good for me even when I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was introduce to this firm. They explained to me that I had rights! They...

- CC

"They are a competent and objective professional family law firm who provides sound and consistent counsel. They are supported by a strong legal team who were impressively responsive to me. Matt and Robert always ensured I was aware of the potential downside of each issue we reviewed. They strike the right balance between taking assertive positions and the legal cost of those decisions so that...

- RC

"When it came time to file my divorce, I knew things would get very messy. My ex-wife was hostile, financially aggressive and determined to fight me at every turn. From the beginning, they alleviated my concerns and significantly lowered my stress level. They immediately analyzed my situation and put together a sound strategy to achieve the best outcome for my divorce. Throughout the process...

- Steven

"The firm represented me in my divorce case. Their professionalism set me at ease by carefully explaining all my options and courses of actions I could realistically take. Their prompt service in quickly answering my questions and taking action gave me a confident feeling that my case was important to them and their staff. In the end, I was very pleased with the fair, balanced and thorough...

- Greg

"In 2006, I was hit with the biggest change in my life, a bitter divorce. I had been married for over 18 years, had two beautiful girls and everything one could ask. Needless to say, this was the most difficult time of my life, a 2 ½ year divorce that ended in 2008. So I thought…In 2011, I was hit by the surprise of an Order to Show Cause from the Ex wanting long term support. I had no...

- Dan

"I am so grateful to have found them and could not have asked for a more attentive or compassionate law firm during this trying time. I always knew what to expect: honesty, integrity, professionalism and they always had my best interest at the forefront. I have and will continue to highly recommend them to anyone seeking legal representation for a divorce proceeding."

- Kelly

"I want to off by saying after being divorced in 1994 and paying 18 years of child support you would think your legal obligations would be done. That was not the case for me. I received papers from my ex wife looking for some outrageous amount of back child support. I was not sure what do at that point so I went hunting attorneys over the internet. I was very nervous to call an attorney but...

- TW

"Matt Sundly is currently representing me in my custody case of my 1 year old son. I have been a client for well over one year and everything I have seen thus far from this law firm has been great. My son’s father left the country for a year but is seeking 50% physical custody upon his return and we will be in court within a week or two of his return. Matt has always responded to my concerns...

- CL

"They represented me in a problematic child support case. This case had been going on for quite a few years and all advice I’d been given was negative and hopeless at best. My problems seemed to be insurmountable. I was literally at my wit’s end. Amazingly, with their representation, the results they were able to obtain for me were better than I could have ever imagined. I’m usually not...

- MW

"Matt represented me on my child custody case. He is very experienced person. Still to this day I call and he gives good advice over the phone and he is very fair on the fees. I would highly recommend them to anybody."

- MC

"Robert and Matt represented me in my Child Custody case. I am exceptionally pleased with how professional their work ethics are. Not only do they show hard work ethic and a genuine disposition, but they are the type of people that you can honestly feel that you can trust with your case. They make sure that you are comfortable and well taken care of when you come to the offices to discuss your...

- Cecelia

"I worked with Matthew Sundly whom I was very happy how he handled my case. This firm is also very fair in regards to the charges that were required. I have used them since my divorce for a custody situation and again I can’t say enough about there professionalism and concern for my case."

- Jim

"I really believe that you did an outstanding job with my situation. Yes, finances were touchy, but none of us anticipated the amount that we would spend. I was very pleased with how everything turned out. Thankfully, I got a fantastic teaching job and life has gone on!"

- Michelle

"I was represented by Matthew Sundly in my divorce case, though I was in a very precarious place due to previously represented by another attorney. Matthew Sundly was able to get me agreeable terms and will be representing me in the future to adjust custody. He was polite, professional and took a real personal interest in my case. If there is any regret it is I did not start with Matthew...

- Doug

"You are probably going through the same emotions as I was, confusion, anger, frustration but most of all sadness to have to go through this process. Rest assured, their professional staff made me feel completely at ease as I went through this tough time. Their legal team helped me understand the volumes of California divorce law and protected my best interest in my case. At the end, my legal...

- Carlos

Matt represented me in a “move away” custody situation with a very contentious ex-spouse. Matt was a strong representative who clearly cared about the outcome of my case. He fought for me, was strategic and tactful in dealing with the other attorney and clearly knows the court system well. I was impressed with his knowledge of my case because I had experienced previous attorneys reading...

- JH

"I had the pleasure of being represented by Mathew and supported by Ashley out the Mission Viejo office. Don’t kid yourself, this is a full service firm with multiple locations and I had regular interactions with Robert, Yvette, etc. They bring all their resources, knowledge and relationships to represent their clients and choosing a firm to fight for your family is one of the most important...

- J.F.

"I had case with my ex wife who I divorced 15 years ago. She wanted a low six figure reimbursement from me, though she is insanely rich and I am not, for what she claimed were medical bills for my daughter but were really almost all educational expenses. In the past, I have had multiple bad experiences with divorce attorneys, whom I spent fortunes on. The past attorneys in my divorce case were...

- William

(Video) 5 Things NOT to do in a Court Hearing

"Remember, during the process of your divorce Mr. Farzad will become your most trusted ally. However, it may at times seem not so. Do not lose your cool. Do not focus on the cost. Do not focus on the present but look toward the future His strategy, persistence, and attention he offers to his clients will be seen only when it's all over. No one wins in divorce but he and his staff will see that...

- Joseph

"It was the toughest time of my life and Robert and his team are compassionate, understanding, and will focus you on what you can control and impact to get a better result. You will get through this process but having Farzad Family Law on your side will make it easier and lead to a better result. Can't say enough about the firm, their staff and the work they do. Don't tell Robert but I would...

- James

"Robert and his staff are very forthcoming with information. They are very straight forward and always kept me up to date on new developments. I felt completely safe and knew that every person working on my case had my best interest at heart; as well as my daughter. I wouldn't have had the outcome I did without the care and representation of Robert Farzad.I highly recommend Farzad Family...

- Erica

"There was not a moment that I felt that they didn’t care about my case, knowing they were working on others cases as well. The actually hearing was nerve wracking however, Robert assured me that everything turns out exactly how it should for the best interest of the children. Robert is not malicious like most lawyers, he is realistic and his advice is positive. I could not thank Robert and...

- anonymous

"I was referred to Robert by someone I met at the court house. I'm glad I called him and handed my case to him. Robert takes your case very personal. He doesn't treat you like his client. He treats you like a family member. I loved the work he did for me. Hopefully I don't have to hire him again. But I will definitely hire him when I need an attorney."

- Phi

"Robert gets every detail, he prepares like nothing I have ever seen, and he is an encyclopedia of legal knowledge. If you have serious money at stake, he is the attorney that I would recommend in a moment. He is not cheap but you get your money’s worth, as I did. Also his staff are great, all of whom respond quickly and are very kind professional people. He is exactly the type of lawyer you...

- WIliam

"I was blessed to find Robert Farzad and his law firm. I have never met an attorney who was so sharp and intelligent. He ALWAYS looked out for the best interest of me and my daughter. Once I retained him I was finally able to sleep through the night and my stress levels were low. I never had to worry about anything. Robert is a genius when it comes to the law. His staff is super friendly and...

- MD

"Mr. Sundly did an excellent job handling my divorce. He was very thorough and was always there to help me and answer any questions during this very hard time!"

- Steve

"Matthew Sundly provided me with the results that I was looking for. He was attentive, professional and his team did an excellent job at handling my case."

- anonymous

"Matt is a trust worthy and knowledgeable lawyer who I can depend on guiding me in the right direction with my custody case. My case is still currently going on but so far he's gotten me full custody If,u 4 year old son which I can't ask for anything more!"

- Cullen

"Matt, Is a honest fair attorney. I've have always had full confidence in his work. He takes the time to explain things, he is fair, he does look out for the best interest for your child and you a child. I have and will continue to recommend Matt to anyone going through a delicate time in their life. Yes you can surely count on feeling safe and taken care of by Mr. Sundly. He is a honest man!!"

- Cynthia

"I initially hired an attorney who was not as focused on difficult custody situations so I found myself in a position to find a new attorney and the firm where Matthew Sundly works came highly recommended. He immediately jumped in and brought a level of confidence and genuine care to my family situation. Divorce is hard. I am glad to have had Matt and his team supporting me through the process."

- Delton

"Mr. Sundley and his team were quick to take action and to resolved my case. I am very happy with his work and I highly recommend him and his office."

- Christine

"I wish I had found Matt at the beginning of my case, but I'm glad to have had him to finish it up. Matt understands family law and the court system. He presents well in court and was well respected by all. I would not hesitate, if needed, to retain Matt for any family law matter. He's my go-to-guy."

- Earl

"It was because of Mr. Sundly's calm and pleasant demeanor and Farzad Family Law's incredible staff that something that could have easily been as stressful (if not more) as my previous "battles" with my ex-wife. I was always kept "In the loop" as to what was going on, what the next steps were and what, if anything, was needed from me. Mr. Sundly took the bull by the horns and did everything...

- Scott

"I came to him after my original attorney did nothing more than sit and take my money, Mr. Sundly was responsive and made me feel like he cared what the outcome would be. He took what was nothing 19% custody of my son to 48% and I am sure that if I would have gone with him initially I would have had at least 50%. My only regret is that I did not go to him first."

- anonymous

These guys did a great job. In particular, the team approach really set them apart from other law firms, lending the obvious benefit: some lawyers are better at attention to detail, some litigation, some in managing relationships. All were important to me; however, rarely do those traits all lie within a single person. With the team at Farzad & Ochoa, all of those strengths were delivered.

- Todd

Farzad Law is well-qualified for all family law matters. Robert Farzad is extremely knowledgeable in family law. I found his tutorials both informative and easy-to-read, in language we can all understand. Robert and his office staff are professional and are timely in following up on inquiries. Farzad Law uses a methodical process to evaluate your case. Their success rate is high, due in great...

- Ian

I spent a lot of money getting an important stipulation done, but it was worth every penny. There is an end in sight for spousal support! All the staff were great, professional and top notch. They got the job done!

- EF

I don’t know where to begin to express my sincere gratitude for having such a professional team of people helping me get through one of the most difficult life changing events. Robert, to Alaa Alomar to Luis McKissick and finally Amanda Naples to get me over the finish line. I learned so much about myself from the counsel of these professional attorneys. What’s more is that they knew ...

- MG

I was an emotional wreck and Robert heard my worries, heard my pains and with his calm, compassionate response made me feel some peace, some hope and gave me confidence he could handle the situation. I handed the steering wheel to him. He and his team put their legal experience and knowledge to use in fighting for my daughter and me. His top notch team kept me updated and promptly ...

- ML

Mr. Farzad and his office were extremely responsive, professional and discreet. The initial strategy call was extremely helpful and I found that Mr Farzad is genuinely interested in me reaching the fastest, least expensive and best outcome possible. He’s driven by great outcomes more than by making a buck. Finding a family attorney is a daunting project. For my part, I wholeheartedly...

- Sheehan

I have never written a business review. But I feel the need to say thank you to Matt Sundly. Matt gave me very human, clear-eyed, and precise advice in my hour-long consultation and follow-up to deal with a crazy custodial conflict issue in the middle of this COVID crisis. I am hoping I will not need to take my case to court, but I feel very secure in Matt's and this firm's hands....

- RJ

My attorney was professional and even though we came across a problem she was able to solve it and help me win my case.

(Video) 2 Things to Do Prior to a Family Law Hearing | Custody Trial Preparation

- Wendy


What is the 10 year marriage rule in California? ›

The 10-Year Rule and Military Divorce

When a service member has been married for 10 years or more while on active duty, their former spouse may be eligible for direct payment and enforcement of their community share of the servicemember's military retirement.

What happens at a mandatory settlement conference? ›

A Mandatory Settlement Conference is an opportunity for all the parties involved in a dispute to come together to try to resolve the issue without a trial. Trials are long, expensive, and emotionally taxing. It's in the best interest of everyone involved to avoid a trial if possible.

What is the rule of 65 in California divorce? ›

The 'Rule of 65' is a factor in determining the duration of support. Spousal support may be paid indefinitely if the 'Rule of 65' is met. There is an important exception to the 'Rule of 65' however, in the case of a short marriage. The Guidelines consider a short marriage to be one that is under 5 years in length.

How long do you have to be married to get half of everything in California? ›

How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Get Half of Everything? In California, anything accumulated during the marriage—whether that's five months or fifty years—is considered community property, and subject to an equitable split.

What are the disadvantages of a settlement conference? ›

There will be added expense and possible delay if the dispute is not resolved, even in part, and all issues go to trial. If the dispute does go to trial, there also is a risk that some element of trial strategy may be disclosed or compromised in the settlement conference process.

What are the cons of a settlement conference? ›

The disadvantage is that the parties do not get to choose their judge pro tem, and there is a strong possibility that their case could get assigned to an ineffective judge pro tem.

What are the pros and cons of a settlement conference? ›

There are several benefits to a settlement, but there may also be some potential down-sides.
  • PRO: Cannot Be Used Against You: ...
  • PRO: Gives You Control Over the Outcome: ...
  • PRO: Quicker Resolution: ...
  • PRO: Cheaper than Trial: ...
  • CON: You Don't Get 100%: ...
  • CON: Might Show “Weakness:” ...
  • CON: Might Tip Your Hand:

How long do you have to pay alimony in California after 10 years? ›

For these long-term marriages (lasting more than ten years) support may last for as long as the one spouse needs the support and the other spouse can pay. This could be for many years.

How long do you have to be married to get spousal support in California? ›

There is no specific marriage duration to get alimony in California. The good news is there is no specific minimum duration before a spouse may receive alimony. A California family court bases its decision to order alimony on a variety of factors, including the marital standard of living.

Is alimony for life in 10 years of marriage in California? ›

There's a common misconception that when a couple divorces after more than 10 years of marriage, California has a rule requiring that alimony will continue indefinitely. In reality, there's no such 10-year rule.

What is a wife entitled to in a divorce in California? ›

In California, a wife may be entitled to 50% of marital assets and 40% of her spouse's income in various forms, but there are no solid guidelines to determine spousal support or alimony. Despite this, however, the aim of alimony in California is to maintain the standard of living for the lesser-earning spouse.


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